(January 1, 2009)

A Happy New Year to everyone! I hope you’ve all survived the holiday season. I, for one, am looking forward to a more normal pace of life.

At Living Room on Friday we’re going to talk about how Christmas was for all of us. Why is it that it’s such a difficult season?

I’ve been thinking a bit about that and realize it’s the expectations we put on ourselves that makes it so hard. Put that on top of what is already a busy and complex life, and you have a lot of stress – stress that causes mood disturbances.

I wonder if that’s why I haven’t been able to work throughout most of my adult life? Going to work and measuring up to what is expected from me – and me always wanting to give it my all – has always given me so much stress that I’ve had to quit the part-time jobs I did try. In each case I found I had no energy left to do my own thing – to be creative, to cook for my family, and to do all the other things that I felt I needed for a complete life. Each time I tried a part-time job I would end up in tears two or three months after starting. I had no freedom to lead my life in the way I wanted to and needed to. No time for the photography that was so important to me, no energy to cook proper meals. Working caused me too much stress.

I like what a friend said in her blog and feel the same way: “Can I tell you that I am simply giddy that it is over? It’s twue…it’s twue! Christmas is over…YAY! I can breathe easier.”

Except for having to prepare for the cruise my husband and I are taking, I am free to do what I want. Before Christmas I always feel like everything I do has to contribute to Christmas preparations. I don’t feel free to do the things that are really important to me. Dare I say, Christmas puts me into a kind of prison I can’t escape, no matter how I try. The result is a lot of stress and depression.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a “bah humbug” sort of person. On the contrary, I always loved Christmas. I enjoy the carols and the baking. I like to buy gifts. But I want everything to be perfect. And maybe that’s the problem. My expectations are too high and that creates a lot of stress.

I have high expectations of myself for the mental health work I do as well, but that’s work of my own choosing. I go at my own pace, as the mood strikes me – and the mood strikes me often. It’s truly what God made me to do. I’m free to make of it what I wish.

I’m glad to be standing on the brink of a new year. Time to start afresh. I’ve decided to start photographing children again and that’s exciting. That work has always given me joy. My life will be busy, but more balanced. My husband is happy because he was always sorry that I gave up this creative pursuit. I’ll go to camera club and share a common interest with him again.